There are still people out there who imagine gamers to be sad and lonely people who only look at the monitor, have no real friends and will never get a girlfriend. This stereotype is so persistent that I still occasionally get weird looks from people who find out that I play games and make a living out of it.
Now a study coming from Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that playing videogames is pretty much universal among teens, both male and female, and that there are numerous positive effects associated with the activity, from better social skills to more social and political awareness.
Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist on the study, declared that “The stereotype that gaming is a solitary, violent, anti-social activity just doesn't hold up. The average teen plays all different kinds of games and generally plays them with friends and family both online and offline”.
Around 50% of those who play games declare that the activity caused them to think about moral and ethical issues and 40% of gamers say that they often play games that involve what can be labeled as political decisions, about running a community or a political entity. The Pew institute believes that those who are engaged in these virtual activities are more likely to become interested in politics and social issues as they grow up.
Only about 25% of those involved in the study said that they only played alone, while the others declared that they play alone, online, with other friends in the same room and even with bigger groups of people at organized events. Most gamers stated that they play five genres of games and about 50% play eight or more genres, so gaming is a very diverse activity with only a minority of people centered around playing only violent action games.
Joseph Kahne, from the Mills College's Civic Engagement Research Group, says that “We need to focus less on how much time kids spend playing video games and pay more attention to the kinds of experiences they have while playing them. Games that simulate aspects of civic and political life may well promote civic skills and civic engagement. Youth, parents, teachers, and others who work with youth should know about the wide diversity of video games -- so they can take full advantage of games and their civic potential”.